Friday, November 27, 2009


I  first posted this green bean story early in November, before I had figured out how to format a blog. Readers told me they were seeing code mixed into the text. So, I will try posting it again. By now, the garden beans are finished and I’m delving into my cache in the freezer.

I’ve been eating lots of green beans from my garden. Southern Spain has a year-round growing season, so this is the second planting. The first, harvested in early summer, were wide, flat romano beans. The second crop, just finishing, are skinny haricot beans.

Last week when my son, Ben, and grandson, Leo, were visiting, I got them to help me pick the last of the beans. My six-foot tall son easily reached the ones at the top of the poles that had eluded my stretch. I sent the five-year-old scooting between the rows to pick those hiding at the very bottom. Then, off to the kitchen to cook a heap of beans.

Earlier in bean season, I rarely did anything more complicated than blanch the beans and dress them with extra virgin olive oil. I love green beans fresh from the garden so much that I enjoyed them in solitary splendor rather than as a side dish. Although, heaped beside grilled fresh tuna and sliced tomatoes, an Andalusian take on niçoise salad, they were outstanding.

But these end-of-season beans needed a little more cooking. Some were even mature enough to shell, discarding the leathery pods. I turned to my all-time favorite Spanish vegetable recipe—verduras salteadas con jamón, vegetables sautéed with serrano ham. This is a great way to prepare almost any vegetable, alone or in  combination. Besides green beans, asparagus, fava beans, artichokes, chard, broccoli and  peas are great choices. So, this is a recipe for all seasons.

American friends who visit me in Spain often complain that Spanish meals, at least in restaurants, are short on vegetables. Markets are heaped with fresh produce, but vegetables, other than potatoes, don’t turn up on the dinner plate as a side with an order of meat, poultry or fish. However, menus often list vegetable dishes along with salads, as starters. This one is a traditional favorite.

I serve these sautéed beans as a starter or, with the addition of quartered hard-cooked egg, as a main dish for lunch or a light supper. The diced serrano ham (vegetables, yes, but not vegetarian) serves as seasoning. You could use (unsmoked) pancetta if serrano ham is not available. The beans need to be par-boiled before sautéeing—a short minute for tender, baby beans or as long as five minutes for older ones.

So, it’s hasta la vista, beans. A great finale. But, I’ll be seeing them again soon, as I’ve packed enough in the freezer to last me through the winter. While frozen ones don’t have the lovely texture of fresh beans, they will be just perfect in this sauté recipe.

Green Bean and Ham Sauté    
Habichuelas Salteadas con Jamón

Serves 1 as a main dish; 2 as a starter; 4 as a side.

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced crosswise
¼ cup diced serrano ham (1 oz)
2 cups cut-up, par-boiled green beans
2 tablespoons chopped red pepper
crushed red chile flakes (optional)
salt and pepper
chopped parsley
hard-cooked egg (optional)

Heat the oil in an earthenware cazuela or skillet. Add the garlic and ham and sauté until the garlic begins to turn golden. Stir in the beans, red pepper, chile, if using, and salt and pepper. Sauté on a medium heat 5 minutes.

To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and garnish with quartered egg, if desired.


  1. I bought a nice ham steak from the local meat market for Christmas dinner and have some left over. This will be a great way to finish it off with some last of season Blue Lakes from the Farmers Market this morning. Sounds simple and very good.

    1. Sue: That does sound like a good idea. Sometime, try it with Spanish serrano ham.